Although my weekly NFL picks stopped after Week 12 (which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that my pick percentage took Reggie Wayne-like hit), they are back just in time for this season’s most important day.
With the lay-off comes a change to the format. Whereas before I was picking against the spread, these picks are straight win/loss. Reason being, at this point in the season, I care more about the excitement of the big game than I do worrying about the margin of victory. All that matters is winning, do so however you can.
So now, in reverse order (due to a New England bias, naturally), my Championship Weekend predictions:
New York Giants at Green Bay (6:30 ET)
If Eli Manning wins a Super Bowl ring this year, I’m starting the petition to add a “v” and “s” to his name. Just saying.
Unfortunately, that won’t happen. As magical as this post season hot streak has been, Favre’s on a Mission From God. The only way it can end is for him to end up in the big game against Brady and the Pats.
The scary thing is, I can’t really make a definitive case for why the Packers will win, mainly because it’s impossible to define the reason for the Giants all-of-a-sudden success. I mean, there are the obvious reasons, the Giants won their two playoff games, like the G-Men haven’t turned the ball over once, that their defense continues to dominate, and that Eli Manning’s last name has taken control of his body (except for his face, which remains uncontrollable). But as to why that stuff is happening—beyond reason.
Here’s what I do know, if Brett Favre continues to get the support on offense that he has all season (there’s no reason to think he won’t), it really doesn’t matter why the Giants are playing well or if they continue to do so. The Packers D is as solid (and under-mentioned) as any defense in the league this year, so with point production through the roof on offense, the outcome of the game is all but determined.
Think about it, what other team can lose possession twice in a game’s first 3 minutes and still completely rout the opposing team? Stuff like that is supposed to doom a team. Yet the Packers weren’t even phased. With they way Grant has been running and Favre has been passing, the Giants pass rush could be deemed useless.
On top of that, Jennings is my pick for Big Play Threat of the Year. Every game he and Favre link up on some ridiculously long TD, and it’s become so common place for them that the celebrations are becoming tame, almost like after a made Steve Nash free-throw.
All in all, Manning will have his hands full, both with Harris, Bigby, and the Packers own pass rush, and the inevitable wackiness of the cold (you know the game will have some weird moments). He will undoubtedly throw one, if not two, INT’s, and that will prove enough for the Pack. Onward to destiny, Brett, onward.
San Diego at New England (3 ET)
Disclaimer: I lived in San Diego for a year, just moving back to the East/Best Coast a few months ago. Therefore, I may or may not have numerous bets riding on this game, which may or may not intensify my strong negative feelings for the Chargers.
Sorry, that slipped out.
So, Billy Volek huh? He’s pretty good, in a Timmy Chang kind of way. Not that I really believe he will start. I mean, Rivers is about as mobile as the Washington Monument to begin with, so what is a hurt knee actually going to do, other than increase his balls-thrown-away-per-game average from 4 to 7?
Tomlinson also will be in action, but he doesn’t really worry me at full strength let alone with a tender knee. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s a great player, he most certainly is the best running back in the league, he just has had little success against the Pats. Although Vincent Jackson has noticeably stepped up his play (due largely to the attention Chris Chambers demands), Gates won’t be at full speed, and Rivers or Volek aren’t exactly Brett Favre or Peyton Manning. The Pats will key on LT and force the Chargers to beat them elsewhere.
The elsewhere certainly won’t be coming from the Charger’s D, though. Aaron Schatz (on Bill Simmons’ latest podcast) statistically backed up what I noticed earlier in the year: the Chargers are among the league’s worst in defending slot receivers. I would extend that to include all medium length passes, not just to slot receivers—remember the blown tackling on the long slant plays against Green Bay and Miami? Cromartie’s defense is exceptional, but he’s at his best when matching his athleticism with a wide receivers in deep ball situations. Tackling in the secondary was and continues to be San Diego’s biggest weakness.
And, you know, Wes Welker led the league in receptions as a slot receiver. And Brady loves the short game.
The only place where the elsewhere could come from is on special teams. As long as the Chargers special teams doesn’t deliver 2 TD’s (a la vs. Indy), I honestly believe this game should be fairly easy for the Lossless Ones.
Regardless of whether or not Moss has a big play or two (he will), the Pats offense is simply too diverse to be stopped by the Chargers. Merriman and Phillips will rush, and I’m sure they’ll cause their share of havoc. But you don’t attain 17-0 by accident, and you don’t let the chance at 18-0 pass you by because of a mental lapse, which is the only way the Chargers can win.
The Patriots will come ready to play Sunday, and there will be nothing the Chargers can do to stop them.
Tags: Aaron Schatz, Al Harris, Antonio Cromartie, Antonio Gates, Atari Bigby, Bill Simmons, Billy Volek, Brett Favre, Chris Chambers, Eli Manning, Greg Jennings, LaDainian Tomlinson, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Randy Moss, Ryan Grant, Shaun Philips, Shawn Merriman, Steve Nash, Timmy Chang, Tom Brady, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker